The power of a microlot

Our microlots stand out. They are even more characteristic, more funky and have a higher cupping score than our Discover Monthlies. But more importantly, they demonstrate the power of partnership, resulting in exceptional quality and even better prices for farmers. In this article on our Rwanda microlot (spring 2024) we lay it out.

Friendly advice: Wait! Get your Fugi microlot, brew a perfect coffee and then read the article below... It's just so much nicer when you are enjoying the story AND the coffee

For the past few years, Wakuli has worked closely with Emmanuel, founder and owner of Baho coffee. Baho runs more than 10 washing stations throughout Rwanda and together with Emmanuel we landed on Kinazi washing station as the perfect match for Wakuli. It has the potential to grow with Wakuli, improving quality and tackling some challenges that are so typical for a washing station in a remote and underdeveloped area in Rwanda.

Based on the taste of our Rwanda Discover Monthly last year (strawberry milkshake!) you might not believe it, but Kinazi is one of the washing stations in the Baho family with the highest room for improvement. And Wakuli is taking on the challenge together with farmers, washing station management and Emmanuel. Our 2024 spring Microlot is part of that process. 


What's a Microlot?

Individual farmers (like Luciana in Brazil and Rosa in Honduras who provided earlier microlots) or washing stations can choose to raise the bar by putting time and effort in creating even more characteristic, explicit coffees. Banking on the expectation that this coffee will sell for a substantially higher price.

Most of the time these coffees are from a certain plot or hillside. In other cases the high quality harvest on a particular day is set aside. Yet another way to create microlot is to separate high quality coffee during the processing (as described above) and give that “lot” a special treatment and some extra love.

That is exactly what happened with the microlot from Rwanda (which we hope you are enjoying while reading this blog ;-) )

The Fugi Microlot (Q2, 2024)

The Fugi washing station south of Kinazi, near the border of Burundi is one of the aces up Baho’s sleeve. They are an inspiration to a lot of the washing stations in the Baho family. They have produced an amazing microlot with aromas of raspberries and cream and taste notes of raspberries, orange wine and chocolate. A smooth coffee with a nice acidity. We are in love.

They got to this amazing coffee by anaerobic fermentation. A process in which the coffee is sealed in airtight barrels and left to ferment under pressure for 120 hours. This causes different acids to develop like lactic acid that gives this coffee its distinct characteristics. 



Now let's zoom in on what you need to have in order to reach these levels of quality. It's not one single answer but rather a mix of elements. Starting with leadership.


Aphrodice, the super dedicated and expert washing station manager at Fugi, has overseen the operations since 2018, using his background in agro-economics and rural development to breathe new life into the washing station and its relationship with surrounding farmers. One of his first acts was hiring a fresh team of workers – a group of young, enthusiastic coffee professionals, all of whom are the offspring of coffee farmers in the area.

Aphrodice describes his role as having three key focuses:

  1. Creating a good relationship between farmers and their families, the washing station staff and Baho management, all working together towards Baho Coffee’s farmer-focused mission.
  2. Maximizing profit of the washing station to ensure the washing station makes business-sense, so that they can continue impacting farmers' lives for the long-term. Higher profits for the station also mean that they are able to pay farmers a higher second payment, and continue to make investments in on-farm success.
  3. Ensure the highest quality and reliable production so that they can continue to build a reputation not only for Baho but for Rwandan coffee overall, as a leader in the global specialty sector.



A respectable community member
Aphrodice is not only a leader at the station but is recognised as an important and respectable member of the surrounding community. He describes this as a key contributor to Fugi’s success – without an understanding and collaborative approach between farmer, the community, and the washing station’s needs then there is no sustainable progress for the region’s coffee.


How come it’s THAT good?
Fugi is renowned for its innovation in processing, and high standard for quality for each of its many lots. When asked how this is possible, Aphrodice gives a lot of credit to his washing station team. 


“Fugi is good because the workers are happy, feel responsibility for quality and are honest toward farmers. Quality then comes without worry.” Aphrodice, manager at Fugi washing station



At the start of the coffee season, Aphrodice places a heavy emphasis on getting his staff and surrounding farmers ready for a successful harvest. This is a make-or-break time for ensuring quality in the coming months. He shows the staff how each element of their daily activities, and attention to detail, has a direct and significant effect on cupping results, and in the end reputation and profitability of the station.


But it is hardly a walk in the park
Similar to many areas in Rwanda, low farm income and limited coffee volumes challenge those who rely on the coffee for their livelihood.


The steep slopes of the southern Rwandese hills are key to the high quality of the coffee, but also demand intense labour to grow, maintain, and harvest coffee. When this is combined with low cherry productivity per tree, farmers end up with high effort and low reward for their crop. The hilly terrain and dense population of Rwanda also mean land is limited and expensive. Because of that, most farms are significantly less than a hectare.


So how does Baho’s Fugi tackle these challenges?
On a farm level, Aphrodice and Fugi’s agronomist take time to produce and distribute inputs to farmers. Two of the key materials, coffee seedlings and organic fertiliser, already started to have a transformative effect on the coffee production around Fugi. Fugi produces and distributes over 100,000 coffee seedlings to farmers each year. This increases farmer’s production and income by 20-50%. To ensure the investment by farmers in expanding production is worth the effort for the longer term, Baho and Fugi source and procure coffee cultivars that have proven to deliver quality and productivity in the surrounding terrain. 


On top of increasing the number of trees per farm, Aphrodice and his team support farmers to increase cherry yield per tree. They have set up an organic liquid fertilizer pilot, using the waste coffee pulp from the washing station. In a simple setup, earthworms digest the sugars of the coffee mucilage producing a nutrient-rich liquid that can be dissolved in water and sprayed onto the tree leaves.


All of this and more is what the Fugi team bring to the table to reach the overall high quality level as well as the exceptional quality of microlots like the one we purchased. We sincerely hope you read this blog while seasonal microlot is on offer. Because every coffee lover deserves to get their hands on it. 


Friendly advice: Get your Fugi microlot, brew a perfect coffee

The power of a microlot